Nonsensical Nonet Releases Energetic US Debut
And now for something completely different! Three European housemates form the nucleus of fusion band Ghorar Deem Express. The name translates as "the horse's egg," a Bengali expression for absurdity. Andrew Bergmann, an American studying contrabass at Conservatorium van Amsterdam, enlisted his friends Rachel Koppelman on accordion and Nadar Sobhan for multilingual vocals. The trio culled the rest of the band from the city's "madcap music scene". Comprised of 10 musicians from 6 countries, Ghorar Deem Express's instrumentation is as diverse as their nationalities.
Ever since the 1960s, there have been two basic approaches to fusion:
- assimilate musicians from various musical disciplines into a new and unified sound, or
- stick a jazz band and a rock band in the same room and see what happens.
Ghorar Deem Express sounds more like #2. Which is not to say it's bad; to the contrary, this recording contains many successful experiments. There is obvious jazz schooling behind these bass and drum parts, and the sax section really, really works. You won't hear much truly inspiring jazz, but the melodies and song structures make for an enjoyable listening experience. The harmonic interplay of Koppelman's accordion is particularly interesting. An ensemble like this could easily spin out of control, but Bergmann's concise arrangements enforce a method to the madness. Nikolai Onken's guitar work blends best when simply comping the chords with a clean classic tone, but he reveals his roots a bit too frequently with distracting thrash and punk licks. Perhaps the special effect would have been less jarring if mixed differently. Otherwise, the production quality is excellent throughout, as is the bilingual CD layout.
Even die-hard fans of Ghorar Deem Express (they already have lots, on both sides of the Atlantic ocean) struggle to describe the resulting sound. Some are reminded of Frank Zappa with a heavier emphasis on collective jazz improvisation. Check out the Ghorar Deem Express CD for some fine music and adventurous arrangements. It's hard to take them very seriously as a capital-J Jazz band, but that's really not their point. Without a doubt, the Ghorar Deem Express experience is best appreciated live. Check their website for a concert near you.
-David Seymour is a freelance jazz journalist in St. Louis, Missouri, USA.